Nose to the Grindstone…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So… Kind of dropped off the face of the Earth. Well, not so much disappeared as met with my editor, started an entirely new draft and have been pumping out pages like Dean Koontz on a crack-binge, though with arguably better quality – sorry Dean! 🙂 I kid, I kid. Anyone who can write a billion novels in his lifetime that are fairly enjoyable should be commended. I think any writer would be beside themselves with his level of success. Which brings us to today’s ramble. Writing. How to – possibly – make a career out of it. I’ve waxed poetic and dabbled with philosophy here and there, but this is a writer’s blog, for people dedicated to or interested in hearing about the process. Like any good lesson, let’s start with the basics.

First off, each writer has their own tools of success, yet some are more universal than others: vocabulary grammar, descriptiveness, mood, characterization. I shouldn’t have to tell you why these five things are important, as they are the building blocks of telling a story. There are more, I’m sure, but this isn’t an English and Composition course, just a ramble. Ultimately, the shape and arrangement of those blocks defines what you write and who you are as a writer. Now, these things aside, I believe that the trickiest bits of being a writer are: managing yourself, your expectations and your time.

Managing yourself. Be critical. Be open to suggestion. Be open to the idea – gasp – of having to rewrite your story if threads just aren’t pulling together. Sometimes retooling or “patching-up” old ideas just ends up with a Frankenstein of a mess. Tabula Rasa. Clean Slate. There is something extraordinarily refreshing about purging the old and creating the new. That’s not to say that every draft you do should be tossed in the trash and started again as soon as its done, but the reality is that any book you see on the shelf has been drafted and redrafted countless times by various hands, not just their author’s. The better you become at expressing your vision, at using the tools noted above, the less “pruning” of your work you will find is necessary.

Expectations. Why do you write? If you’re writing for J.K. Rowlings type stardom, I hate to break it to you but there are better odds at winning the lottery. Writing is an art. And it should begin, as all art does, from the heart. From the desire to create and express and share with the world. Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone needs to tell their story in this medium. Know why you want to be a writer. Figure out what voice you have and what it is of your experience that you want to share. Not to go too far off the path, but I never could have discovered my voice without the loss of my mother and the experiences surrounding that. She is where I draw my courage and inspiration from. I don’t suggest waiting until someone vitally important to you dies. In fact, I think that’s a terrible idea. I am glad that my mother read my manuscript, rough as it was, when she did. Because, as stated above, I was able to share myself with her.

Time. Now here’s the big one. Writing is an odd sort of art. We do it since we learn how in many different permutations through the day. Creative writing, story-telling is rarely a habit and always trained. Just as you exercise to hone and sculpt your body, so too must you do so for your literary muscles. Unless you are the reincarnation of Shakespeare or Yeats, you won’t be cranking out your first NY Times best-seller at the age of 10. Life usually get’s in the way. Our own fears and inhibitions after that. You need time and dedication to your work. Success through trial and error. Some people – not me – find writer’s groups or courses quite beneficial to their craft. If you are serious about becoming a writer, explore every option that feels right to you, and even some that don’t. Part of this education, is of course reading. Try to stray from immersing yourself solely in the sort of material that you want to create or your vision can become myopic.

Oh, and find a good editor. Start with your friends – the smart ones 🙂 – have them offer critical feedback, suggestions and support. Then find someone who does it for a living. A good editor can illuminate your strengths and flaws in a way that is as exciting as it is terrifying.

Good luck on your journey! I shall be in touch xoxoxo

(And sorry, but I’m off the radar for some time. Up to my eye-balls in the new draft.)